Apr 25, 2019
Star Trek (TAS) “The Terratin Incident” (part 2 of 3)
Kirk asks Spock if he’s learned anything about the strange rays. Spock shows inhuman reserve by not prefacing his answer with, “What, you mean the strange rays I warned you about?” But instead, all he says is they’re “complex beyond anything in [his] experience”. So I take it Spock never saw The Big Sleep.
Seriously, I’ve seen the movie four times and I still don’t know who killed Sean Regan. It’s like director Howard Hawkes said, “Screw it, just let Bogart and Bacall talk for two hours”. And I just now read the re-released cut adds on an extra minute. I wonder, if I see that sixty seconds will the movie make sense?
Where was I? Oh yeah. To save power, Kirk tells Arex to reduce the number of scans he’s doing, but Arex replies that he can’t scan anything anyway: “My eyes no longer fit the opticals!” That so sounds like a Devo song. Huh, I’m being seriously tangential today. Kirk calls down to Sickbay for answers, since Spock is batting .000, and McCoy wants Kirk to come down and see something.
McCoy confirms Spock’s theory that the crew is shrinking, or more accurately, they’re contracting. It’s why everyone still weighs the same. If that’s true, then wouldn’t that scanner have broken under Kirk’s weight? Man, 23rd Century craftsmanship is impressive!
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As the episode informs us, there’s a huge amount of space between the molecules in our bodies, and the energy ray is causing this space to contract. But before the menfolk can discuss this more, Chapel hysterically (and not in a funny ha ha sense; she sounds like she’s about to have a nervous breakdown) declares the animals are growing too small for their cages. What do you guys keep down there in Sickbay, guys? Cobras? Space scorpions? Don’t tell me you kept that Capellan Power Cat from “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”?
Okay, I admit, if I had a chance, I would’ve taken that with me, too; that thing is awesome!
Instead, it turns out Chapel is just talking about the gossamer mice. This means the shrinking is working on everything organic. But if that’s the case, why are their uniforms shrinking, too? Now, I would’ve accepted the answer “Because this is a kid’s show. Perv,” but we get more than that. Spock explains that their uniforms are made from “algae-based xenylon”. Okay, it’s a bullshit explanation, but kudos to the writer. If this had been Voyager, they wouldn’t have even bothered. I mean, that’s the show where we learned viruses can fly.
Just a note: in writing a lot of this, I have “Girl U Want” going through my head. It’s not even my favorite Devo song, dammit. Why couldn’t it have been “Through Being Cool” or “Whip It”? I’ll even take their cover of “Satisfaction”!
Spock notes that the mysterious rays seem to “wind tight such spiral molecules as dilithium”, and another molecule like that is DNA, which explains why the crystals and organic matter are both affected. Still doesn’t explain why humans are shrinking and the crystals blew up, though.
Back on the bridge, we learn the gang has less than half an hour before they’re too small to operate the ship’s controls. Sulu freaks the hell out and wants to bombard the planet with phaser blasts. Obviously, the situation has gotten to him; like most men, he fears… shrinkage. Honestly, I feel for actor George Takei. Most of his lines amount to just saying, “Yes, sir,” and parroting back what Shatner/Kirk just said to him. It’s the first time in forever he gets to do something different, and Sulu loses it like a five year old.
Sulu is talked out of raining hellfire upon the planet, but we’re not done making Sulu look bad, because he soon falls and breaks his leg. Wow, did Takei park in director Hal Sutherland’s reserved space that week or something? Kirk has to get Sulu to Sickbay, but by now the crew is too small for the turbolifts to see them. Kirk uses what I assume is someone’s dirty discarded toothpick to trigger the turbolift’s electric eye.
Maybe it’s not a toothpick. Maybe it’s one of those plastic things you spear olives with in a martini. Who’s been drinking martinis, I wonder?
Down in Sickbay, McCoy grouses that they can’t use their magic bone-knitting laser on Sulu because everyone is too small, but Christine comes up with the idea that they could use their super small magic bone-knitting laser that repairs inner ear damage. Hey, I’m actually impressed here; rather than having Chapel just stand around, the writer and director have her contributing. After those incidents with the women sounding panic-stricken earlier, and Spock making Uhura look useless, it’s nice that for a change we’re going to see—
…Never mind. Well, at least now we know who drinks martinis onboard. I would’ve pegged McCoy as a mint julep man, anyway.
Kirk—and Kirk alone [!]—rushes to Christine’s rescue. I now get the feeling Shatner may have had some input in the script’s final edit. That explains Takei getting repeatedly screwed in this episode (and not in the way George Takei likes). Okay, I can see McCoy not wanting to leave his patient’s side, but what’s Spock doing during all this, holding Sulu’s hand? Fortunately for Kirk, he finds a needle and thread…
…and why is the needle and thread there, anyway? I can’t imagine McCoy having to stitch wounds, what with this being a future with magical bone-knitting lasers and all. Regardless, Kirk saves Chapel and the thingamajig that will fix Sulu’s leg.
Wait a minute! If everyone still weighs the same, then wouldn’t Chapel have zero buoyancy in the fish tank? I think she would sink straight to the bottom, yes? Unless she’s just as strong, so in that case couldn’t she be able to just hit bottom, kick off, and leap out of the tank, using Ant Man physics?
And now that I’m thinking about it, if they do weigh the same, how was that thread strong enough to bear her weight while Jim was pulling her out? And how are these guys…
…able to stand on stilts that look like they’re made out of chopsticks without them snapping? Who the hell wrote this script?
Alright, Mister Paul Schneider, let’s see what other hack jobs you’ve done in the past…
…Oh. Two of what are widely regarded as among the best TOS episodes.
I think maybe the way to fix all these errors would have been to say the crew is retaining the same mass, not the same weight. I think if the mass is the same but they’re smaller, then there’s less gravity acting on their bodies, right? Can you tell my college degree ain’t in science?
Spock reports that he’s figured out just how small they’re going to get: one-sixteenth of an inch high, which is way, way too small to operate the ship. Kirk asks Spock if he can figure out the geographic center of the energy beam emission, saying it’s as good a place as any to beam down. Kirk then calls up Engineering…
…and tells Scotty to get a crew down to Transporter Room 3. Scotty wonders how many are beaming down, and Kirk says just one. Gee, I wonder who that might be?
Look, I know Kirk is the hero, but isn’t Spock the better choice? He’s the science guy with the planet-sized brain, and is physically tougher than everyone else. Christ, Kirk, look for the girls after you’ve been restored to full height!